Boot Polish Revisited
Last week I watched Boot Polish, a Hindi black & white movie released in 1954. More than 50 years has elapsed since its release and it seem to me as fresh and compelling as a new release.
A story that revolves around two orphans: Belu and Bhola. They are pushed into begging by their wicked aunt Kamla who grabs all the money they get. Thus Belu and Bhola feed themselves begging. John chacha, a bootlegger gives them emotional warmth and help them fire their imagination to lead a life full of self respect and hard work. He motivates them with the words “Starve, die, but don’t beg.”
The struggle to change their destiny is very well drawn in the movie. The orphans save some money to buy a shoe polish kit which Kamla finds out. She beats them and throws them out of her house. There seems no shelter except John chacha’s house. John chacha’s subsequent arrest and Belu and Bhola’s separation pave way to Bhola’s misery and Belu’s good luck. Belu is adopted by a rich couple. Inspite of all riches, Belu longs for her brother. Bhola is sentenced to an orphanage after he was caught selling eatables.
Belu is now rich and donates generously to poor. Once while donating to the beggars she comes across Bhola. Bhola feel humiliated and runs away to return at last. The orphans are now reunited and adopted by the rich family.
The movie depicts widespread poverty, unemployment and growing aspiration of people in the free, independent India. Raj Kapoor’s depictions of social issues have always been a great success.
The film won the 1953-54 Filmfare awards for best picture, best supporting actor, and best cinematography. Some people may consider this a melodrama but for me it is a cinematic excellence interwoven with the harsh realities of post independence emerging industrial India.